Hearing for Champaign County woman charged in Capitol riot slated for today

Hearing for Champaign County woman charged in Capitol riot slated for today
Photos in federal court records the FBI says link 2 Champaign County residents to D.C. riot

WASHINGTON D.C. — The Champaign County woman charged in connection to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 will be having her detention hearing today.

Jessica Watkins, 38, faces charges of conspiracy, obstructing an official proceeding, destruction of government property, and unlawful entry on restricted buildings or grounds.

>> RELATED: Warren County couple charged in connection to Capitol riot; linked to Oath Keepers

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Donovan Crowl, Thomas Caldwell, and Warren County residents Bennie and Sandra Parker also face similar charges.

“Evidence uncovered in the course of the investigation demonstrates that not only did Caldwell, Crowl, Watkins, and others conspire to forcibly storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021—they communicated with one another in advance of the incursion and planned their attack,” the FBI said in an affidavit.

A court affidavit said Caldwell helped to organize a group of up to 10 people who were seen wearing military-style gear during the insurrection.

According to the indictment, the trio is accused of initiating “their communications and coordination in November 2020 and continued through on or about Jan. 19, 2021, when Caldwell was arrested.

Watkins and Crowl both turned themselves in several hours after the FBI raided Watkins’ Woodstock apartment in the early morning hours on Jan. 17.

The FBI said all three have ties to the Oath Keepers.

The Oath Keepers are a large but loosely organized collection of militia who believe that the federal government has been coopted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights, according to the FBI.

Watkins and Crowl are said to affiliated with or members of the Ohio State Regular Militia, which is a local militia organization that is a subset of the Oath Keepers, the FBI reported.

According to the affidavit, Caldwell sent a Facebook message where he discussed scouting lodging for several others at a Comfort Inn in Virginia about eight miles from the Capitol that “would allow us to go hunting at night if we wanted to.”

On Jan. 1, the FBI said Crowl sent a Facebook message to Caldwell saying “guess I’ll be seeing you soon...you are the man Commander,” the affidavit read.

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Court records obtained by News Center 7, show the FBI also obtained audio from the app Zello, which is a walkie-talkie style app.

In the audio, the FBI said a voice believe to be Watkins reported “We have a good group. We have about 30-40 of us. We are sticking together and sticking to the plan,” according to the affidavit.

Later in the audio, the FBI said a voice also believe to be Watkins said “We are in the mezzanine. We are in the main dome right now. We are rocking it. They are throwing grenades, they are fricking shooting people with paintballs. But we are in here,” court records read.

According to the affidavit, a witness said Watkins returned to Ohio after the riot, but left Ohio on or about Jan. 14 “to stay with a friend and fellow Oath Keeper...”Tom” or “Commander Tom.” The FBI said it believes that person was Caldwell, according to the affidavit.

A search warrant served at Watkins’ home uncovered several items.

“One record that agents recovered appears to be directions for making explosives, authored by “The Jolly Roger,” an FBI agent wrote in court records. “I know that Watkins operates a bar known as the Jolly Roger, and is believed to operate a Facebook account under that same user name.”

Agents also found “protective and battle gear of the sort worn during the offenses of January 6, 2021.”

Another search warrant served Sunday at the location where Crowl was said to have occasionally stayed. FBI agents said law enforcement recovered a green reinforced vest with the name “Trapper” affixed to it. That is the “label visible on video and in photos that captured Crowl during the incursion of the Capitol,” records read.